Thursday, September 17, 2009

Theatre of the Oppressed


Some quotes from Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed:

"This book attempts to show that all theatre is necessarily political, because all the activities of man are political and theater is one of them.

Those who try to separate theater from politics try to lead us into error -- and this is a political attitude.

In this book I also offer some proof that the theater is a weapon. A very efficient weapon. For this reason one must fight for it. For this reason the ruling classes strive to take permanent hold of the theater and utilize it as a tool for domination. In so doing, they change the very concept of what 'theater' is. But the theater can also be a weapon for liberation. For that, it is necessary to create appropriate theatrical forms. Change is imperative.

I came across this book this morning while reading a blog post by Alan Roxburgh, who writes a good deal about Christian mission and being 'missional.' When you consider what Boal is saying it's intriguing to see this book listed on Roxburgh's site, since it's plain from the few statements above that Boal views things from a Communist/Marxist point of view, where everything is political. The trouble is, everything isn't political. I've just read a fairly dreary book called The People's Train, by the Australian writer, Tom Keneally. The main character in that book is full of socialist thinking, particularly Leninism, and the book - to me, at least - is as dull as ditchwater, because the main character is so dull; his views on everything are political.

Roxburgh takes up Boal's approach somewhat differently, I suspect. Here's a passage from the blog post in question.

One [woman] spoke briefly of research she had done for her doctorate. It involved listening to the conversations of women in the communities where she ministered in the UK. Her interest was in spirituality and spiritual formation. She brought to those interviews with these ordinary, everyday women the reflections of a variety of feminist theologians about women and spirituality. In the interviews, she discovered that while the theologians had been partially correct in their proposals, these women’s stories were telling her much that she would never have known apart from sitting among them and listening to their stories. These women wanted to talk about their experiences and spirituality but had little sense that they had ever been asked or listened to. There is a chorus of voices in our communities and neighborhoods longing to be heard and screaming to be given voice.

Now Roxburgh doesn't go from there to insist that we all get political. What he's saying at the beginning of the post is that one of the values of Twitter, Facebook and the like is that ordinary voices can be heard.
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